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    “ERIK: PORTRAIT OF A LIVING CORPSE”: A Valentine to THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (Movie Review)

    Ryan Bijan freely admits that ERIK: PORTRAIT OF A LIVING CORPSE is a student film.

    And indeed it is. Like Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland did in those grand old MGM movies of long ago, writer/director Bijan and his friends got together and put on a show. Clocking in at about an hour, ERIK is a well put together labor of love.

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    “TORTURE CHAMBER” (Movie Review)

    Horror is a base genre in many respects, as it taps into our anxieties about what’s beyond the door for us all, about death and what–if anything–lies beyond. Shame then, that most genre movies get bogged down in pedestrian plotting, exasperating exposition and trivial twists. The greatest horror films are not steered by their scripts; rather, they are works of sensual alchemy. Martin Scorsese once said of Bava’s work–and I’m paraphrasing–that “Bava made films that bypass your brain and go right to your gut.” Indeed his films, and many of the great works of European horror, trade in visceral imagery and sound design to bring their nightmares to grand fruition. And if you’ve ever had a really juicy, heart squeezing, body sweating, wake-up-screaming-and-pull-the-covers-up-close nightmare, you’ll know that plot, character and dialogue aren’t what gets blasted forever onto your psyche. What strikes you and what sticks with you can’t even find articulation for, it just is.

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    “THALE” (DVD/Blu-ray Review)

    THALE is a lovely film, epitomized by its titular creature, which is a gorgeous one indeed. Written and directed by Aleksander Nordaas and based on Norwegian folk tales of cow-tailed temptresses called Huldra, THALE (on DVD and Blu-ray/DVD combo from XLrator Media) takes a classic-monsters approach to its story, evoking empathy for the sheltered, experimented-on beauty (Silje Reinåmo) as well as the best-friend duo who discover her.

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    “DOCTOR MABUSE”: Ansel Faraj and the Return of German Expressionism (Movie Review)

    FANGORIA #322 featured my interview with Ansel Faraj, the young writer/director of the new thriller/noir film DOCTOR MABUSE. The no-budgeter, literally shot in the filmmaker’s backyard, attracted a good deal of attention due to the  casting of three major players from the classic horror-themed soap opera DARK SHADOWS.

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    “BARON BLOOD” (Blu-ray Review, Arrow Films)

    Boutique British Blu-ray label Arrow have been very kind to lovers of Italian horror over the last few years, serving up heaping helpings of Fulci and Argento in pristine region-free HD packages. In 2013 they’ve finally turned their attention to the maestro who started it all: Mario Bava. After cranking out a definitive BLACK SUNDAY disc, the company has moved onto to some of his later, campier efforts. The latest Bava Blu-ray from the company is BARON BLOOD, a late inning horror hit for the director that’s been swallowed up by obscurity. It might not be the director’s greatest effort, but is certainly something of interest to Bava-hounds for its inspired no-budget gothic carnage.

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    “MR. JONES” (Tribeca Movie Review)

    Seemingly the most divisive midnight/horror offering at the Tribeca Film Festival this year, MR. JONES has garnered reaction across the spectrum. What’s odd though is how in polite conversation, most have refrained from mentioning just how admirably weird Karl Mueller’s sort-of found footage feature debut gets in its second half. MR. JONES is a strange beast and for better or worse—or however you come out of it—refreshing in that it’s a fairly unique, Lynchian addition to the current glut of docu-style terror.

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    “BIG BAD WOLVES” (Tribeca Movie Review)

    Two years ago, Israeli writer/directors Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado provided an out-of-nowhere highlight of the Tribeca Film Festival with RABIES, their multiple-twisty variation on killer-in-the-woods standards. Now they’re back at the fest with the world premiere of BIG BAD WOLVES, which isn’t quite as narratively knotty but proves the duo equally adept at a more brute-forceful brand of thriller.

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    “THE MACHINE” (Tribeca Movie Review)

    Some films just look cool. Caradog James’ future-set cold war tale THE MACHINE is massively so. From an aesthetic standpoint it is slickly designed and beautiful on what’s surely a modest budget. Temperature-wise, it exists in a seeming eternally harsh space of overcast skies, nighttime and enormous, often barely-holding up warehouses and labs. Star Caity Lotz is fluid and incredible in her movement. But what’s truly coolest is the ensuing warm, radical spirit that reveals itself throughout it all.

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    “FRANKENSTEIN’S ARMY” (Tribeca Movie Review)

    Fans old enough to have unsuspectingly walked into NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD or THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE during their original runs have described feeling like they were in the hands of madmen, directors who had gone off the deep end and were taking the audience with them. I won’t make claims to future similar classic status for FRANKENSTEIN’S ARMY just yet, but parts of it gave me a similar lunatics-have-overtaken-the-asylum sensation.

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    “DARK TOUCH” (Tribeca Movie Review)

    In DARK TOUCH, European director and provocateur Marina de Van transfers her now recurring theme of identity crisis and unsure footing from grown women to a young girl still in pre-pubescence. It’s this pre-pubescence that’s taken terrifying advantage of; the repercussions of which manifest themselves in a fury of psychic power and telekinesis. Of course, CARRIE will be and is a touchstone for many in the case of this Ireland-set horror story, but whereas that tale explores the fear of oncoming womanhood, DARK TOUCH is an unnerving look at it forced on someone far, far too young.

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